Saturday, March 14, 2009

Beautiful breakfalls from beautiful throws

I have discussed breakfalling and related drills and motivations in previous posts this month. This time I turn to breakfalling from actual throws. These tips assume that you have basic competence in breakfalling. As usual, don't try this stuff without expert supervision.

For example, in the image below we see uke being thrown in a hip throw. He is about to land on his side on the ground, and his whole body is curving in preparation, with his left hand and arm shaping to slap the mat to help dissipate the impact. His right hand is holding onto Tina's lapel to pull upwards against gravity, which will help take the edge off the throw; Tina holds his right sleeve with her left hand, which also helps.
The 1st hip throw: Uke goshi
  • These tips are best learned through cooperative throwing practice. The principles behind them apply in other situations, but I think that it is far better to internalize first, analyze later.
  • For visualization purposes the Judo fundamental grip is assumed: Right hand grips at the collar, left hand at the sleeve for both partners.
The Tips
  1. Allow yourself to be thrown: If you prevent your partner from throwing you, you won't get to practice your breakfall. If your partner gets the throw despite resistance it is likely to be less smooth and more sudden, so you won't have as much time to breakfall, and your execution will be compromised.
  2. If you fail to breakfall, or do a weak one, breakfall again before you get up: This reminds your body what it should have done in the first place. It is also more productive than negative self-talk.
  3. Hold on with your non-breakfalling hand: This is possible on most throws where you are not projected away. It lessens the impact of the fall, provides you with a means to help control your descent, and later opens the door to counter-throws. Note: Against a much taller partner you will need to hold on lower down the lapel.
  4. In hip throws, press your breakfalling palm to the back of your partner's left shoulder-blade as (s)he prepares to throw you: This pre-positions your breakfalling arm and stores a bit of energy by spring-loading it, setting you up for a good break-fall.
  5. Watch how the higher grades do their breakfalls: Also feel how a more experienced partner breakfalls when you throw them. Emulate these models.
  6. Look-out for areas that need improvement: Figure out which of the breakfalling drills can help fix the problem, and visualize fixing the problem when you next practice the relevant drill(s).
Finally, when you are throwing your partner, throw beautifully, so that your partner has every opportunity to execute a beautiful breakfall. The resulting totality will be a joy to watch.


Sue C said...

Thanks for replying to my comment in your previous post. You hit the nail on the head when you say there are problems when visiting elements that are not the core of ones martial art. 95% of the time we don't even train on mats because we are expecting to stay on our feet! So getting the mats out to practice some throws is a rare ocassion in our dojo. I think I will have to tactfully suggest to my sensei that I need more breakfall practice next time the mats are out. This current post is really useful to me - thanks

Anonymous said...

I like point 5: watching higher grades breakfall. There's something about how the authority and execution of breakfalling that stirs me. It's like brushing away all impact of the throw rendering it close to no effect, at least that's when they execute it beautiful. Anyway, even at this stage, it can be told the difference between someone's been breakfalling for weeks and someone who's been doing it for years.